Sunday, December 16, 2018

I was Facebook's Pawn: A Confession

Facebook is a cesspool of invalid information.  Image is public Domain.
Dear readers, I used to be a huge proponent of FB.  I am a librarian and early on I realized the potential of social media for networking, sharing information and as a medium for learning. 

This is no longer the case.

I used to believe FB was a great tool to share information.

It is not even a good tool for sharing information.  

I am an information professional.  Part of my job is teaching students information literacy.  Here is a definition of Information Literacy that ALA uses:

Information literacy is a set of abilities requiring individuals to "recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information." 

This has much to do with the the person's ability to search for and find valid information.  

Most dictionaries define validity as: "The quality of being logically or factually sound;  soundness or cogency.

This is fundamental to using information to create knowledge. That is to say, if you use corrupted information to create knowledge--then that knowledge will be corrupted and invalid. 

Facebook is a cesspool of false, misleading and triggering information.

Facebook is able to build a psychological profile of users and then use this profile information to 'feed' information that will trigger certain reactions in that targeted user.  They know what we have shared in the past and what led up to this sharing.  This is incredibly powerful information and is key to understanding how their stimulus response system works.

The 2016 election results were partially a result of this.  

I can no longer use FB as an information professional.

Will I use it to promote my books and other work?

Yes--most certainly.

However, I won't use it as a vehicle to share information any longer.

I can't trust the information I am 'fed' on FB.

I often share information that is:

  • Old
  • Semi-true
  • Biased

I am not the only information professional that does this.

Since it is a networking interface--I often receive information from other librarians, teachers, authors, activists, etc...that is invalid. 

Sometimes I share information based on my trust of the individual, but many times they have been manipulated into sharing this invalid information and I unknowingly pass this on.  People might think that since I'm a librarian--what I share is valid---when it sometimes isn't.  Then they pass it on.  I hope you see where I'm going with this. 

One point here is that it is so hard to tell what is true and what is not--or that I will have to go out and triangulate every piece of information I am 'fed' if I want to share valid information on FB.  Another point is that even information professionals share invalid information on FB.  

Throw in the psychologically triggering aspect and this makes FB an invalid tool for sharing information.  
The Gesture by Shirt58
I would also say that libraries and librarians should be wary of promoting FB in light of the above.

As an Information Professional it is unethical to promote a platform that shares invalid information with our patrons and to students.

Should we maintain FB pages?

Sure--there are plenty of reasons to use FB.

One would be outreach.

A library could use it's FB pages to teach patrons how bad an information source FB is and why they shouldn't use it as an information source.

Another reason to use FB is support groups.  Support groups on FB can be wonderful if properly moderated.  Just take a look at the Library Employee Support Network on FB.  

Where users share information with one another in a shared interest group is another reason.  Certain professional development groups are wonderful on FB.  I can think of the REFORMA Think tank as one example of a good use of FB.  

Groups are still a valid use of FB--provided they are not just a place where people share FB feed information.

So, I am no longer an active user of FB.  Those who know me--know I have been a active  proponent of FB and other social media.  I am rethinking my use of other social media, but I was never as convinced of any other platform as I was  of FB.  The idea that it was a great tool--was true for me for years and years.  

It is not a good tool for sharing information.  

Is it a good tool for contacting your old high school classmates?

For sure.

Is it a good tool to keep in touch with family?


Is it a good news or information source?

Most definitely not!

Have a great holiday season!

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